Gasper and Pauline Lopiccolo (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Brian Thomczek says he gets excited whenever he sees a work of art with a J.L. Hudson’s label. “They were known for having a wonderful gallery and carrying quality work,” he said. “It’s a label I am always happy to see.”
The work that Gasper and Pauline Lopiccolo of Grosse Pointe Shores brought in didn’t have a Hudson’s label, but it had something even better in the art and antiques world — a clear provenance. Gasper remembers buying the piece — an oil painting featuring a bucolic landscape scene — in 1962 at the storied J.L. Hudson’s flagship store on Woodward Avenue downtown. He bought it with a few other pieces and thinks he paid somewhere around $4,000 for it more than 50 years ago. “An art buff” according to his wife, Pauline, Gasper was curious about the artist who painted it and what it may be worth more than 50 years later.
“We have it hanging in our home, and people always come in and say it’s gorgeous and that we should find out more about it and the artist,” Pauline told Thomczek during Trash or Treasure appraisal day held at Judy Frankel Antiques, part of the Antiques Centre of Troy.
Painted by the artist Charles Angus Swan in 1887, the oil on canvas sported a gold frame that did not look original to the piece, said the appraiser. The Lopiccolos admitted to having the piece cleaned and reframed about 25 years ago, adding that they had gone to the Detroit Institute of Arts for the conservation work.
Thomczek admired the painting and its overall condition; but unfortunately, even after extensive Internet research, could not shed any light on the person who had painted it. “There is only one mention of this artist, and it’s vague, with no sales records,” he told them. “It’s possible he didn’t produce much, didn’t live long or worked in the studio of another artist, which would account for the lack of information.” While he doubts this is the case with the Lopiccolos’ painting, he said other artists and even ordinary people through the years would sign their own names to unsigned paintings as a lark or in an attempt to claim a level of talent they don’t possess.
While he couldn’t give the Lopiccolos more information on the creator of their painting, Thomczek did have some good news. Because of the style and brush strokes, he confirmed its age and genre, adding that it’s a very good example of English landscape painting and a solid investment. In a retail gallery, it would sell for about $4,000, less at auction, which is a wholesale value.
“Unfortunately, the market for British landscapes is a bit soft at the moment unless it’s a well-known artist,” he told them. “If it was a Constable, I’d be giving you different news. But this is really pretty, and, in a retail setting, it’s still worth about what you paid for it, which is more than you can say for a lot of investments.”
Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure, 615 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to email@example.com. If chosen, you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal. Photos can’t be returned.